Modern Diplomacy
The Ukrainian Conflict: Echoes of the Cuban Missile Crisis and Russia’s Strategic Interests

Ukraine has moved the centre of its sovereignty beyond the country’s borders, which was a mistake by the elites that costs Ukrainian society very dearly, Valdai Club Programme Director Andrey Sushentsov writes.

Despite its complexity and multi-layered nature, the Ukrainian conflict is not unique in world history. Its genesis has two important components: first, an explosive situation is inevitable when radical nationalists become a pillar of a country’s identity; second, the country found itself on the security frontier between two major centres of power and is unable to defend its own autonomy and agency. Ukraine has moved the centre of its sovereignty beyond the country’s borders, which was a mistake by the elites that costs Ukrainian society very dearly.

At the same time, world history shows that there is a way out of such situations: it is necessary to stop delegating the formulation of one’s own interests to someone from the outside. There are people in Ukraine who have the state’s best interests at heart. In the minority today, they are the ones who have directly declared the need for good neighbourly relations with Russia. If Ukraine had adhered to this position from the very beginning of its statehood, I think that we would have had very smooth and constructive mutual relations. We would strengthen each other, actively develop and prosper together.

I fully believe that we can resume this neighbourliness at a new historical stage. Each state, with its own unique history, represents a special experiment that develops through generations, victories and defeats, mistakes and the great deeds of its heroes and leaders. The final configuration of territory and influence that a state arrives at is the fruit of its history, through erroneous or fair decisions.

Painful experience is also useful. I don’t think that what happened will forever determine our relations with Ukraine. In a historical sense, this is not the first time this has happened: it happened in Peter the Great’s time with Hetman Mazepa and his attempts to establish spontaneous coalitions with the Swedes, with the Livonian order in the Middle Ages, with the campaigns of Russian princes against the West, the Polish intervention, etc. This is not the first time we are in this situation, and it is not so hopeless.
Modern Diplomacy
The Return of History: Cold War Lessons for Current International Crises
Igor Istomin, Nikita Neklyudov, Andrey Sushentsov
Today, as in past epochs, the search for an international political balance is accompanied by intense confrontation between major powers and military blocs. Not surprisingly, mutual hostility is emerging as the dominant mode in relations between Russia and the West.

Russia’s interest now is to permanently eliminate the security threat from the territory of Ukraine, and in the long term, to resolve the situation with the security structure in Europe. We must return to discuss the rules of conduct between Russia and NATO countries. Russian diplomacy spoke about this at the end of 2021 on the eve of the escalation of the crisis. In the West and in the East, the understanding has finally strengthened that Russia is a constant element whose interests must be taken into account. At the same time, reasonable, strategically thinking people should start directly telling the Western public about the risks of escalation.
Instead, we hear irresponsible militaristic statements from politicians in the spirit of “the worse, the better.” This is a product of the feeling that security is free of charge, that the world exists on its own, without requiring additional effort to maintain it. This is the product of the thinking of several generations of people who have done nothing to ensure their own safety.

Our tradition differs from that of the West precisely in the understanding that peace is very fragile; the peace we know, as a phenomenon of history, is the exception rather than the rule. Our country’s historical experience is deeply rooted in our elites. If there are arguments that consider a nuclear war scenario likely, we cannot analytically rule it out. What is the lesson from the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis? Having no experience of direct confrontation under conditions where the use of nuclear weapons was possible, the two countries did not use them and gained this valuable experience in 13 days, which then served as the basis for a series of bilateral negotiations on the limitation and reduction of offensive weapons.

Washington has closed off the possibility of constructive, trustful interaction with Russia for at least 10 years. Moscow has established zero trust in any initiatives of the American administration. The United States is perceived as an inconsistent, opportunistic, hostile country that is looking for an opportunity to consolidate its dominance in the world through any means necessary.

The world history of the past hundred years shows that after long cycles have received some impetus for development, they reach their most exhaustive expression. The Franco-German confrontation led to world war twice, and American leadership in the Western coalition found its full expression after the end of the Cold War. The global dominance of the United States also reached its peak and began to decline, and the competitors of the United States are rising in different regions of the world, and now they want to determine their own fate.
A World Without Superpowers
Oleg Barabanov, Timofei Bordachev, Yaroslav Lissovolik, Fyodor Lukyanov, Andrey Sushentsov, Ivan Timofeev
World politics has begun to rapidly return to a state of anarchy built on force. “The end of history” culminated in the restoration of its usual course – the destruction of the international order resulting from large- scale conflicts between centres of power.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.